Category Archives: Collectables

Some medals and a story

We had an interesting group of medals brought into the shop a few weeks ago, though it wasn’t obvious at first.
It was just three medals – a 1939-45 Star, Pacific Star and War Medal. They were in the box of issue, with an address label and had clearly been received through the post, looked at and stuffed back into the box, where they had stayed for the last seventy years.
Those of you unfamiliar with British medals I presume you are staring at the page with a glazed look. If you are familiar with them you are probably going “Aha!”
After a century of giving out campaign medals (our first general issue to all ranks being the Waterloo medal in 1815) we came up with a fairly complicated system for the Great War. I won’t go through it all here, but if you are an insomniac please let me know and I will have a crack at curing you.
In the Second World War we came up with what seemed like a simpler solution, but in the interests of economy they decided not to name them. The Australians, the South Africans and the Indians managed to find the money to do it, but we didn’t.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

WW2 campaign stars and war medal

We issued a range of cheaply manufactured stars with ribbons designed by King George VI. Unless they are accompanied by paperwork or named medals such as a Long Service Medal there is no way of putting a story to the medals.
It always strikes me as a shame when you just have a handful of anonymous medals.
Fortunately we know they were awarded to Mr P Ramsdale of 25, Brownlow Rd, Mansfield, Notts. He must have served in the Royal Army Service Corps or Army Catering Corps because that’s the return address on the envelope.
There are too many P. Ramsdales to isolate the exact one on the Ancestry Website, but there is a reference to him in the local paper – the Nottingham Evening Post of 9th January 1947.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Percy Ramsdale in the Nottingham Evening Post

Armed with the knowledge that he was called Percy, it became a little easier to find information, though I couldn’t find exactly what I was looking for.
The Pacific Star isn’t common to the British Army and a group of three like this usually denotes someone taken prisoner at the fall of Singapore. Frustratingly, I couldn’t find any records to start with, but finally found them on Ancestry. I’m not sure if I’d been missing it up until then, or if it was a new release.
One of the records shows the names of his parents, and the Brownlow Road address. I’m not sure what this signifies as he seems to have been married with a son by then and I would have expected his wife to be on the record.
He is listed as being taken prisoner on 15th February 1942, the day of the surrender of Singapore (one of the worst, and most shameful British defeats, and we’ve had a number of them over the years), and appears on lists of prisoners held in Thailand for the rest of the war.
His year of birth is 1907, not 1905 as given here.
Screen shot of Percy Ramsdale's POW record

Screen shot of Percy Ramsdale’s POW record

It amazes me that a man released from Japanese captivity in the middle of 1945 could be back as a coal face worker by January 1948. They obviously made the m tougher in those days.
It’s not as if he’d had a great start in life. His father’s military career, for instance, lasting from 9th September 1914 until 14th October. He was clearly a patriot, to have enlisted so soon. But, from the reason for his discharge, I take it that his personal qualities as a husband and father may have been questionable. The reason he was “not likely to become an efficient soldier” as specified in King’s Regulations was noted as “Chronic Gonorrhea acquired before enlistment”. However, he does seem to have been a hard-worker – hotel groom (1911), miner (1907 and 1914) and railway worker (1939)
so he clearly did his best for his family.
It can be tricky looking back and making judgements. After all, Ramsdale Snr was just one of 416,891 men in the army treated for VD between 1914-18.
I wasn’t able to trace more information on Percy, until finding his date of death. He died in 1983 at the age of 77. However, I feel lucky to have found this much. It could easily have been different if the family had thrown the box away.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Pacific Star

 
 

Some more stamps…

We bought some stamp sets last week and I put this one to one side for a photo. The five stamps come to £1.89, which is, coincidentally, (and 20 years after issue) the value of second class Signed For postage.

They are a bit shiny so the individual shots didn’t come out too well.

 

Sorry about that. They are a good set, featuring some great stories, and deserve better pictures than this.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Just a short post today. I may try another one later. It was a hectic day with 24 parcels to do – one with 46 items in it and another with 24 medallions. They take some packing!

Sounds silly after some of the jobs I’ve had to say I’m exhausted after packing a few parcels, but there you are – old age.

I also failed my blood test this morning, so I’m back again next week. Pah!

Frank Soo

I was entering pre-war football cards onto eBay, specifically the large sized Topical Times series from the 1930’s. I find them awkward to work with and tricky to photograph, because they are nearly ten inches long with a tendency to curl. I’ve mainly used the scanner, because it flattens them nicely for the picture.

Yes, I’ve finally worked out how to use the scanner properly, though you can only fit two of these monster cards on at a time.

Ears, as you can see from the photographs, were worn larger in the 1930’s.

When I started on the colour cards, which are much less harrowing than the black and white images, I found Frank Soo.

 

The combination of name and slightly oriental features made me look again.

Frank Soo, was the first man of Chines heritage to become a professional footballer and first man of non-white heritage to play for England (in nine wartime Internationals). He went on to manage a number of teams in Sacandinavia, Italy and Scunthorpe. As a collector of trivia, I’m ashamed to say I’d never heard of him.

His brother Ronald flew with the RAF in the war (Frank served in the RAF in a technical capacity) and was shot down and killed as a Lancaster air-gunner in 1944.

It’s amazing what you can learn if you keep your eyes open.

Torpingtons, Tankers and What Might Have Been…

We bought an accumulation of ephemera last week from the family of a DFC winner, Flt Lt Charles Stein. He flew in Wellington bombers with 38 Squadron in Malta and North Africa. They were, at one point, converted to carry torpedoes, and had some important successes in the Desert campaign. In this role they were known as “Torpingtons”.

His DFC was awarded for his part in a successful torpedo attack on an Italian tanker bringing fuel to Rommel’s Afrika Corps. (See London Gazette 5th February 1943 – Pilot Officer Charles Lourie STEIN (131139), Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, No. 38 Squadron).

As a result of this, and several other attacks, the Afrika Korps eventually ground to a halt when the Panzers and Luftwaffe ran out of fuel.

We have a selection of propaganda leaflets, maps and other bits and pieces that he accumulated during his flying days.

Wellington crew - 38 Squadron

Wellington crew – 38 Squadron

He’s one of the young men in this photograph. Five of them wrote their details on the back – at least three, possibly four, didn’t make it. They were, I think, an earlier crew than the one he won his DFC with, and died in several different actions.

Three were killed on operations with 38 Squadron, one was probably killed with another squadron (there aren’t quite enough details to confirm this), and I can’t read the name of the final man.

Stein himself ended up in hospital with diphtheria after winning the DFC and wrote to his parents with the news while he was still in hospital. While he was there his crew was posted as missing when they failed to return from a mission. As there are no reports of enemy action that night it is likely they suffered engine failure and went down in the sea. Or, as they flew low searching for shipping, it’s possible they just flew into the sea.

According to the details we were given, Mr Stein went on to have a long and happy life, successful both in business and in bringing up a family. One child became an academic, one a professional violinist and the third worked in fashion. It makes you wonder what the other aircrew could have done if they’d been given a chance.

And then there are the other questions. If he’d been with them would he have died? Or would his experience have helped the crew survive?

His main regret, according to his daughter, was that he wasn’t allowed to keep the jacket he was wearing in the photograph.

WW2 propaganda leaflet

WW2 propaganda leaflet

Not all the leaflets are as interesting as this.

 

Football, a Spider and an Educational Parcel

We didn’t have much to do in the way of packing parcels this morning, or much activity from customers, so I was able to continue with the soul-crushing task of compiling a drop-down menu of Topical Times football cards for the eBay shop.

They aren’t like normal cards, which had to fit in a cigarette packet or pack of gum, these were given away with a magazine. The ones I did this morning are the miniature size – as wide as a cigarette card but about twice as high. This makes them difficult to photograph efficiently as they need cropping whichever way you do them. They are also in black and white, which makes them look very similar – I’m used to a world where football shirts come in different colours, not just black, white and grey.

Having said that, they had better names in 1938.

James Argue - Chelsea FC

James Argue – Chelsea FC

 

Sam Barkas - four of his brothers were also professional footballers, as was his cousin Billy Felton

Sam Barkas  – Manchester City

There were five Barkas brothers, all professional footballers. Sam and his cousin Tommy Felton both played for England.

We were lucky during the week when a lady rang up with a few things to sell – I checked if she had anything else and was able to buy some WW2 propaganda leaflets and wartime maps. They had belonged to her late father. but she was (quite rightly) keeping his DFC and other medals. More of this later.

Towards the end of the afternoon we had a number of sales, which we packed ready for Monday morning.

I scanned some of the propaganda leaflets ready for auction next week. This, though tatty, is probably the best of the lot – a magnificently evil Nazi spider with Hitler’s face.

WW2 propaganda leaflet

WW2 propaganda leaflet

My Greek was weak in the 1970s when I actually made a serious effort. It’s worse now.

I’m still good at sticking stamps on envelopes though, as you can see here.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

£3.95 – absolute bargain!

History, nature, Christmas, royalty – it’s not an envelope, it’s an education. The Winston Churchill stamp provides balance to the Nazi spider.

Hitler, Nazi, Boobs…

Yes, that got you attention didn’t it?

We’ve been talking about how to title eBay sales.

It all started when the Boss noticed someone was selling Churchill Crowns for what seems like a lot of money.  They add “WW2, Hitler, Nazi, Silver” in the title line and sell the crowns for around £12, We normally think we’ve done well if we get £1 and we don’t even bother to put them on eBay as serious coin dealers don’t consider them worth selling. Even the Westminster Collection, who are not known for their modest prices, only ask £3.50 for them.

It seems to me that words like WW2, Hitler and Nazi are attractive to people who want to spend too much on coins.

And “boobs”? Well, from what I’ve seen on sites selling seaside postcards the word “boobs” is used to stimulate sales. I have descended as far as “bosom” in my pursuit of sales (we actually sold three cards from the newly listed lot overnight). I’m not sure how much pride I’m prepared to swallow in the pursuit of wages.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Bamforth comic card

It makes me proud the be an eBayer. Well, actually it makes me question the entire basis of my life, but I thought I’d try some irony.

It also gave me a catchy title for this post. The alternative was “Salad Emergency!” based on my experience of making a salad from random fridge contents after Julia used all the bread.

Quinoa, tomatoes, olives, red peppers, pumpkin seeds with Balsamic vinegar. My fridge is far too healthy.

Quinoa, tomatoes, olives, red peppers, pumpkin seeds with Balsamic vinegar. My fridge is far too healthy.

Or “Shirt Tragedy” because my fifteen-year-old shirt finally gave way under the stress of covering my amply proportioned frontage. The loss is less keenly felt than the loss of the cats, but cuts deeper than such things as cricket defeats and the passing of Little Chef and their All Day Breakfasts. I liked that shirt.

In a couple of months it will rise again, as part of our Christmas Wreath project.

It’s that or throwing it away. It’s too worn to make good rags and Julia says no self-respecting tramp would be seen dead in it.

 

A New Medal and some Questions from History

Someone brought medals into the shop for mounting last week. Their father has tended not to bother about his wartime service too much and has only just been made aware that the French Government has been giving out the Legion of Honour to veterans who participated in the Liberation of France in 1944-5. He now has his, and has decided to go to France for a memorial event in September. When he does he will be wearing a properly mounted set of medals.

He seems to have had quite an active war, and I don’t begrudge him the medal, but I can’t help thinking that giving someone a medal because he was in a certain country 75 years ago, and has lived long enough to collect it, is slightly devaluing his contribution, and the contributions of many others, including the people who kept the war going in Africa, the Atlantic and the Far East (to mention but a few). I worked with several Normandy veterans in the past, and I’m feeling slightly saddened that they didn’t live long enough to get an extra medal.

If you were at Dunkirk you don’t get it. Same if you were in the RAF flying over France in 1943 but not 1944. Or at Dieppe or St Nazaire.

And that’s before we come to the irony that we were effectively at war with the French from 1940-42. The Vichy French killed a number of British and American troops in that time, and imprisoned others. I’ve always wondered what it must be like for veterans of those attacks to see the French posing as staunch opponents of the Nazis. You would think the least they could do would be to give a medal to our soldiers that they shot at.

Politics and warfare are always more complicated than they look.